Sought by Grassley, Berwick's tax forms are largely public info

Most of the tax forms for the nonprofit Institute for Healthcare Improvement (IHI) — forms being sought this week by Sen. Chuck Grassley (R-Iowa) — are available to the public online.

Missing from the postings on Guidestar.com, however, is IHI donor information, which has emerged as the focus of Grassley's interest. 

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On Thursday, Grassley, the senior Republican on the Senate Finance Committee, wrote to newly installed Medicare chief Donald Berwick requesting "IHI's last three Forms 990, including Schedules B."

Berwick founded the Harvard-based IHI in 1991 and served as its president and CEO until this month, when the White House used a controversial recess appointment to place him atop the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS).

Most of the IHI forms Grassley requested are on display at Guidestar.com, an online database for Internal Revenue Service (IRS) 990 forms. Not posted, however, are the Schedule Bs, which list individual donor information.

To protect individual donors, IRS codes prohibit the agency from disclosing Schedule Bs.

The donor issue has emerged as the central focus of Grassley's inquiry.

"One of the many significant issues related to your nomination that remains unresolved is the potential for conflicts arising from donors to the [IHI]," Grassley wrote to Berwick. "The public has the right to know whether the numerous and significant policy decisions that you make are vulnerable to these potential conflicts of financial interest."

Grassley added, "You assured me you would comply with this request. … However, this information has not yet been provided despite assurances from both you and the administration."

Release of the information is particularly important, Grassley said, because the recess appointment denied lawmakers the chance to question Berwick directly — a circumstance that's "circumvented the open public review of your nomination," Grassley wrote.

"As a result, an unfortunate shadow has been cast over your suitability, legitimacy, and authority to serve as Administrator during a critical time for CMS and the nation as a whole."

Grassley might not have the donor information he's after, but the public 990 forms do include information on another topic on the Iowa Republican's radar: the salaries of nonprofit executives. 

Berwick's compensation while heading the IHI, the forms reveal, was $2.4 million in 2009, up from $1.4 million the year before.

Grassley has recently questioned some nonprofit CEOs over their enormous salaries. In the case of Berwick, though, the issue hasn't surfaced.